Vote “Best One Man Show” for Dan Stolfi: my friend who beat cancer with his talent and love

If you haven’t seen Dan Stolfi’s one man show “Cancer Can’t Dance like This” you should go now. If you don’t know the back story behind his incredible journey, then read this and his blog now. If you have the ability to vote him for a Canadian Comedy Award, you can do that now right

I met Daniel in our sketch comedy troupe Fade to Brown. He was our “Token White Guy”. We had an incredible ride, from a sold-out one night show at the Panasonic theatre, to national CBC radio coverage, and finally to our TV pilot that had aired on OMNI several times the past few years. Through it all, I discovered that Dan was so much more than our TWG, but our go to guy for playing any character, giving awesome ideas, and finally demonstrating inspiration. He could do just about anything, except maybe a Scottish accent, and I admired his talent greatly.

The reason to vote for him, watch his show, or get to know him is simple. He shares and connects with you in a profound way. He makes you laugh, cry, and takes you on a rollercoaster journey. He opens up his life to you via his cancer experience, his head, and his heart.

Dan was diagnosed with cancer just two weeks after we finished filming our Fade to Brown TV pilot. It came so suddenly and honestly it felt a bit surreal to our group. I can only imagine was Dan was going through.  I actually knew quite a bit about cancer because I had another close friend, Vince Fazari, lose his life at just 21 years of age and he had shared a ton of his own research with me. Part of me was glad that it was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma versus Leukemia because I knew Dan had a much better chance of surviving. In the initial stages Dan was as stoic and positive as his family seemed to be when we visited him in the hospital.

The chemotherapy got more aggressive and we began to see the toll it was taking on him. He lost his voice, his hair, and he was very weak all the time. And this from a man who was in his prime, both physically and creatively. We had even put together a FTB sketch about “Peck Training” where Dan and Amish got to show off their impressive physiques.  But it was the chemo that was doing the damage, not the cancer.

Death is such a hard topic for anyone to talk about. We visited Dan all the time and tried to be supportive and positive. We feel embarassed for maybe being selfish about how we are dealing with it because we know that Dan was going through way more than us. But we also rarely talked about how we were all feeling about the cancer and what it was doing to him. Facing his mortality changed Dan deeply. His appreciation of his support network was genuine and heartfelt. His expressions of love and affection grew, as he valued life and the chance at life. He showed remarkable hope in his situation and told everyone about his big project. He was writing a one-man show about kicking cancer’s ass!

I got a voice-mail from him one day and I was startled by it. His voice was so weak I could barely recognize him. He kept saying how much he appreciated me several times and then ended with “I love you man”. Dan was not afraid to say things that we find so small and awkward, yet he could. I was so moved and inspired that I kept the message as long as I could. My plan was to keep it until he beat the cancer.  But things kept getting worse.

At his birthday party, it was probably the worse I had seen him. There was a lot of love in that room with friends and family. Dan could hardly move, speak or smile. He kept saying how grateful he was and a part of him seemed embarrassed to get so much attention. Of course we didn’t care about the embarrassment; we wanted to be there for him. Saving up his energy he finally spoke after we sang happy birthday and blew out the candles for him. I don’t remember the exact words he spoke, but I know that couldn’t help crying, along with many others in the room. For me, it was the first time I felt that Dan was truly losing hope. And because he had been the one sharing his journey with us and remaining so stoic, I felt my first twinge of losing hope too. I felt helpless because I wanted so much to do something. I felt a bit alone too because we still had trouble talking about it. On the way home, I started to talk about it in the car with my FTB friends, but again we were all feeling the toll. Life sucked that day and I was pissed off at cancer.

A long time passed before we noticed that Dan was getting better. Then came the amazing day that he shared with us that he beat the cancer! I was ecstatic and my wife Ananda and I shared tears of joy for our friend.  I kept his voice message for the rest of my cell phone’s life.

All Dan wanted to talk about was his show. He and I met for lunch and talked about how to market his show. I gladly helped with everything I could suggest and do. I was determined to see the show, even though I just happened to be going through a very personal struggle myself at the time. In fact this personal challenge was one that affected me deeply and had taken another toll on my hope. But then I saw the show.

“Cancer Can’t Dance Like This” was an incredible show! Dan shared his journey in all honesty, genuineness and authenticity. He shared what he was thinking, how he struggled, and what cancer, death and life meant to him. Yet he put together an amazing construct that was so hilarious! I was literally laughing so hard that I started crying. And then during the emotional scenes, I was crying so hard, I started laughing. I didn’t which I was doing and for why. But I knew that I was motivated to change my life for the better and value people even more. He inspired me to value my relationships. I am thankful that Dan chose to share the real journey with me and the one on stage too.  Along with the birth of my two children, his connection with me has made me value life in all its preciousness and infinite worth.

So if you are an industry or CCA person and are able to vote him for “Best One-Man show”, do it now!

If you haven’t seen his show, go check it out at the Fringe July 6-17 ( Be sure to say hi after and give him a hug.

If you feel connected to him after my story above, please share this note and promote the vote and the show. The more you like and comment, the better chances Dan has to get the votes to win the Canadian Comedy Award.

Dan, you totally deserve the CCA award and I hope you get it. Thank you for sharing your journey with me. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for being a brother. I love you man too.


Cancer Can’t Dance Like This
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Bobby Umar
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